Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin, the eruptive singer who reigned atop the pop and R&B charts in the late ’60s and early ’70s with a succession of albums and singles of unparalleled power and emotional depth, has died. She was 76.
Franklin was suffering from pancreatic cancer, and had earlier undergone surgery in December 2010. Her longtime publicist Gwendolyn Quinn reported Franklin died Thursday morning at her home in Detroit.
“In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart,” Quinn said in a statement. “We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”
She was the most lionized and lauded female R&B vocalist of her era. Winner of 18 Grammy Awards, and a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement honoree in 1994, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. She was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors.
Bearing a prodigious talent born in the church, Franklin was still a child when she was tapped for stardom. She attracted awed attention in the gospel world before entering the pop sphere at the age of 18 under producer and label exec John Hammond’s wing at Columbia Records. The expressive, uncommonly forceful voice was there, but the hits were scarce.
It was at Atlantic Records that “Lady Soul” truly arrived. In 1967, Franklin’s profound debut single for the label, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” a No. 10 pop hit, was succeeded by her scorching, career-defining No. 1 cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect.”
Those songs and succeeding hits melded a deep gospel feel with R&B instrumentation and worldly themes, elaborating on the groundbreaking work of pioneering soul men Ray Charles, James Brown and Franklin’s friend and idol Sam Cooke, who had similarly crossed over from sacred music to secular stardom.
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Aretha Franklin Reported Dead;
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